CRANFORD — The Cranford Township Committee passed two ordinances at its meeting held on Tuesday, both of which were based on public-safety concerns that had been raised by residents.
The meeting began with an update provided by Mayor Brian Andrews regarding the ongoing 750 Walnut construction. In December of 2023, representatives from Hartz Mountain, the project’s redevelopment firm, were called in for another meeting with the township’s building department and engineer. They discussed the dust-remediation issue and ensured new approaches would be taken.
“Another part of the meeting focused on trees along the berm,” Mayor Andrews said. “They removed more trees than they were supposed to. The measurements are not consistent with the plans. They acknowledged this and said it was an error that too many trees were taken down. That is not acceptable to us. The trees that were there are down now. The question now is how to make this better.”
The council is pushing to do the replacement plantings as early as possible. They are looking at May, but the council is pushing for at least April, if not March. The landscaping plan also will need to change to adapt to the fact that they no longer have mature trees that were supposed to stay. The council plans to talk about remediation steps.
“There will be work done on the berm, which will include extensive landscaping across the top,” Mayor Andrews said. “There’s a picture online showing you that the berm elevation will stay the same and it will be even more extensive than the original proposal since trees came down when they weren’t supposed to.”
Deputy Mayor Terrence Curran also expressed his disapproval of the tree removal and assured residents that action would be taken.
“We will work with the Shade Tree Commission and the environmental commission to make sure those trees are planted and they live up to their agreement,” Mr. Curran said. “We are in the process of organizing that so they have open meetings and discussions for summer and fall planting.”
Commissioner Paul Gallo then took a moment to comment on the new public-safety ordinances and explain them to residents.
“Previously, trucks have been allowed on portions of Lexington Avenue and Raritan Road but ticketing and enforcement did not apply,” Commissioner Paul Gallo said. “Another ordinance tonight is about Pacific Avenue, right next to Roosevelt Park. This will make parking available only on the right side of Roosevelt Park to help increase pedestrian safety as well as better accommodate emergency vehicles that need to utilize the side of the road. There is some additional parking on Orange Avenue to get to the park.” Several residents expressed gratitude for the council’s ongoing attention to concerns expressed about 750 Walnut.
“Thank you for addressing the tree issue,” Cranford resident Julian Leo said. “We also notice that the property has been elevated on the other side of the berm about four feet or so. So from our home on Walnut, you can see the pedestrians on the other side of the berm and we are wondering if they are going to raise the berm. So if you can let us know what they plan to do about that, it would be greatly appreciated.”
Another resident expressed similar feelings regarding the township’s proactive approach in addressing residents’ concerns.
“I’m happy to see the town has 2024-01 on the agenda tonight regarding the trucks on Lexington Avenue,” Christine Esposito of Behnert Place said. “It appears you’re going to address some of the major concerns that residents in the 750 Walnut area, specifically Lexington Avenue, have had for years and are dealing with right now. We know this will be compounded by the site’s ongoing construction and the eventual occupancy. I appreciate the township is being proactive about this traffic-mitigation effort.”
“The residents of Behnert Place voiced concerns about the impact of traffic and public safety due to the driveway relocation of 750 Walnut to align with our street. I’m speaking on behalf of myself and my neighbors when I say I believe an intervention is needed on Behnert Place in order to mitigate new traffic from and/or into the 750 residence on Behnert,” Ms. Esposito continued. “We see this as a necessary step to take in the immediate future and is not something that should only be considered after occupancy.”
Ms. Esposito asked the council how the proposed ordinance came to be and what changes would need to take place in order to have a local street formally requested and explored in a similar manner.
“There will be work done on the berm and that includes extensive landscaping across the top,” Mayor Andrews said. “There’s a picture online showing you that the berm elevation will stay the same and it will be even more extensive than the original proposal since trees came down when they weren’t supposed to.”
Mayor Andrews explained that the ordinance originated because of a truck on Lexington Avenue that had gone up onto a resident’s property. Large trucks were already not allowed on the other side of Lexington.
“I’ll be honest with you about Behnert,” Mayor Andrews said. “There really isn’t a formal process in place for something like that.”